Review: Billy Joel and Sting light up San Diego stadium on a cool, soggy night

George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

SAN DIEGO — Take a bow, mother nature!

Thanks to some uncharacteristically wet April weather during Billy Joel’s sold-out concert with Sting at Petco Park on Saturday night, pop-music’s famed piano man has achieved an elite — if not entirely coveted — distinction. He now joins the Rolling Stones, Miles Davis and Tony Bennett on the very short list of legendary musicians whose open-air San Diego concerts saw them forge ahead in a noble quest to reign in the rain.

Happily, no precipitation marred Sting’s superb, 83-minute opening set, which included a propulsive version of his funk-fueled 1993 romp, “Heavy Cloud No Rain.” Alas, the song includes a couplet that proved all too prescient Saturday night at the downtown ball park: The clouds won’t go till their work is done / Every morning you’ll hear me pray / If only it would rain today.

The clouds started their work at 9:10 p.m., midway through “Movin’ Out,” the second selection by Joel and his brassy, one-woman, seven-man band. The light but steady rain continued through his next seven numbers, which included “Vienna,” “An Innocent Man,” “Don’t Ask Me Why,” a truncated version of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up,” and the jazzy, finger-snapping “Big Man on Mulberry Street,” which featured Joel trading vocal lines with an umbrella-twirling Sting.

“Bring your raincoat!” Joel quipped as Sting strolled on to the enormous stage, which stretched across much of Petco Park’s right and center fields.

Before “Start Me Up,” Joel told the audience: “Don’t get all excited; I ain’t Mick Jagger.” Indeed, at 74, Joel is six years younger than the hyper-kinetic, age-defying Jagger. (The Rolling Stones, incidentally, were the first rock act to perform at the then-new Petco Park in 2005, a year after it opened.)


When “Start Me Up” concluded, Joel and his well-drilled band playfully broke into a few verses of the 1964 Riveras’ chestnut, “California Sun,” which was memorably covered in 1977 by the Ramones. Raindrops were visible on parts of his grand piano, but Joel was undaunted.

“We’re from New York — this is nothing!” he told the cheering crowd. Even so, Joel’s stage attire was topped off with a black zip-up jacket, a cap and a wool scarf. The drizzle was constant enough that several of this reporter’s pens stopped working because of how wet the pages in my notebook had become.

The rain abated — for a while — shortly after Joel launched into his ninth selection, “New York State of Mind,” his signature song and one of the highlights of his set.

The air was alternately dry and moist for the 13 numbers that followed in Joel’s concert. It culminated with five sure-thing encore numbers — “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Uptown Girl,” “It’s Still Rock and’ Roll To Me,” “Big Shot” and “You May be Right,” which included a charged snippet of Led Zeppelin’s 1971 classic, “Rock and Roll,” sung by Joel band guitarist Mike DelGuidice.


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